Thursday, May 10, 2007


Do you know those cute-but-almost-generic blog entries about meeting someone on the street and describing that meeting and between the lines it turns out that there is a lesson to be learnt?
Yeah, this is gonna be one of those.

I noticed Ben when descending an escalator in the mall attached to Utrecht station. It was almost six (official shop-closing time), it was very busy. Among all the people, Ben looked up the escalator and caught my eye as the only person that didn't only have his eyes open but paid attention to the situation and saw what was going on.

What was going on, was that he was selling the newspaper that is written and sold by the homeless people and no one was buying. Something that is true about crowds, is that the more people there are, the less people will react when someone asks for help.

When Ben looked up the stairs I could tell he was pretty desparate, potentially about to give up. I don't always buy homeless newspapers, I feel ambiguous about them, and never actually read them, but I instantly bought a paper from Ben. He was completely genuine in thanking me, not embarrased of his trade, as we discussed the best times for selling his paper. Before I continued, he told me to read his story on page 5 of the newspaper.

His interview tells the story of how he lost everything after getting hospitalized without insurance and had been surviving for a couple of months on the streets. What struck me, was his complete acceptance of his situation and the realism of his expectations (on the short termy, figuring out ways to obtain medecine, & on the long term, trying to use the address of an acquintance to register and receive state benefits).

I wish I'd bought four.

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